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3 stars I have heard about this band before, but never really been interested before I got a promo copy of this album which will see the light of day in three weeks time.

Listed as a prog metal band, Vangough has as much respect for the highway code as bankrobbers has during a bankrobbery. In short, their music is not confined within the prog metal genre. For some reasons, their new album reminds me about Muse in their vocals, symphonic approach and sound. Yes, there are still tonnes of metal in the sound and Dream Theater is a good reference. But Vangough is mostly branching out into landscapes previously/present occupied by the likes of Manic Street Preachers, Muse and Shadow Circus. In other words, theatrical and symphonic rock inspired prog metal.

The sound is OK and so is the music here. I have to admit it does not really hit me at home. Vangough is very artistic as in pretentious. But there are some good melodies inbetween this overly touchy feel me music here. I am sure this album will be lapped up by the new generations of prog heads. This is by no means a bad album. But I do not connect with most of it although I admit this band is one to watch during the next decade. They may be the new big thing in the scene. And frankly, that would not be a bad thing.

A good album, it is. But it fails to move me.

3 stars

Report this review (#540744)
Posted Monday, October 3, 2011 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Kingdom Of Ruin' - Vangough (7/10)

A couple of years ago, Oklahoma prog metal band Vangough released their debut 'Manikin Parade', an album that I perceived to be shamelessly doused in the influence of Swedish act Pain Of Salvation, but one that I found both inspired and enjoyable to listen to. Since then, they also released a fun tribute to the soundtracks of video games, playing original rock/metal renditions of classic game scores from the 8-bit era and beyond. Over the year or so that I have known about this band and listened to them, I have found them impressive and found myself in anticipation of the new outing from Vangough. 'Kingdom Of Ruin' may not have the instant appeal that 'Manikin Parade' had for me, but it is a step towards maturity for the band that I think will lend to even greater things in the future.

Most notably, frontman Clay Withrow and company have tuned down the superfluous Pain Of Salvation influence in their sound. This is a band that is still notably inspired and driven by the style of progressive art metal that Daniel Gildenlow can be said to have innovated, but I feel like this band is taking steps to making their own identity. Ironically, this is brought forth by lowering the dramatic flair and proggy sensibilities that I heard on the debut. Instead, there is a more homogeneous melodic metal sound. In hindsight, 'Manikin Parade' was a little scattered and over-the-top, and at least for its first half, 'Kingdom Of Ruin' ramifies this issue. The songwriting is a little more concise and focused this time around, without as many 'wow' moments to dive into, but each song delivers a somewhat greater sense of satisfaction by the end. 'Abandon Me' is a perfect example of what this album is all about; rhythmic guitar work, plenty of ambient keyboard work in the background, and- certainly not least- Withrow's voice itself.

As was the case with 'Manikin Parade', Clay Withrow's vocal abilities remain the absolute pinnacle of Vangough's strength. In lieu with much of the band's presentation, he does take a leaf from Daniel Gildenlow and the Pain of Salvation school, but the range and strength of his voice is gorgeous. Sadly, there are only a few moments on the album where his voice is given a chance to really prove itself, and this subdued nature is something that lies throughout 'Kingdom Of Ruin'. Each of these four musicians is an impressive figure in the prog metal catalogue, but I feel that the songwriting's often straightforward nature generally leads to the voice and writing being emphasized largely over anything else. There are still moments and solos where Vangough get to prove their instrumental capabilities, and these sparse sections are brilliant. There are some wonderful riffs on my favourite track 'Rabbit Kingdom', with twin lead guitars soaring. The latter half of the album does start getting a little more adventurous, with the twelve-odd minute 'The Garden Time Forgot' ending things. At fifteen tracks though, I begin to think that 'Kingdom Of Ruin' gets a little long for its own good.

There are plenty of memorable, moving songs here, and many moments where I was really impressed by Vangough. The more suppressed style on 'Kingdom Of Ruin' does indicate to me that they are consolidating their talents and sharpening up their essence, but it comes out just a bit dryer in general than I may have wanted. As well, this issue could have been softened by shortening up the album's length; with fifteen tracks here, it's difficult to argue that every one of them are winners, and the moments here that pass me as cheesy or tired- as few and far between as they may be- seek to take away from what is otherwise a really great album from this band. With the maturation they have demonstrated here, it will be exciting to see what Vangough offer on their third full-length.

Report this review (#564947)
Posted Wednesday, November 9, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars In the past couple of years the name of Vangough has been mentioned in several places and occasions, here in ProgArchives I read some reviews and got interested, though I actually did not look up for their music. Now, fortunately, thanks to Freeman Promotions I could have the chance of listening to their latest album, which gives me an idea of their music, though I am not really sure if in the sound here is the same as in their previous works, since I've not listened to them.

However, I have found myself comfortable while listening to this 2011 release entitled "Kingdom of Ruin", an album that contains fifteen songs that make a total time of 75 minutes (it is a long album indeed). The music here is oriented to progressive metal, with some variations. It powerfully kicks off with "Disloyal", with some screams since the very first seconds, later keyboards and guitar begin to create the structure, and open the gates to what Vangough will offer here. This song is a nice opener, with a cool guitar riff at the end, and with good (though not my favorite) vocals.

"Choke Faint Drown" has again a powerful beginning, but a minute later it slows down and creates a subtle sound that puts a charming mood. Little by little the song is progressing, with keyboards, emotional vocals and metalish guitars. "Abandon me" has a very alike sound, it totally follows the same style. The fact is that here we begin to realize that their style does not necessarily fit under the prog metal realm (they are, without a doubt, but they truly touch the boundaries).

"Drained" continues with that mixture of heavy and mellow metal, here the voice is what really changes the direction, in spite of the music, so for the band it is undeniable that Withrow's vocals are really important, whether you we like it or not. What I like of Vangough is that in songs relatively short, they put several elements and changes of time and mood. "Kingdom of Ruin" starts with a delicate piano, and then the heavier sound appears, with nice keyboards as background, cool drums and once again good changes in mood and tempo.

"Frailty" has a soft sound with piano, mellow vocals and guitar chords. As you can imagine, a minute later it changes and becomes a bit heavier, without being really heavy. There is a moment of tranquility, when even acoustic guitar appear, but later it explodes again. I am not sure if my review is being a bit repetitive, but well, I believe Vangough's style is well defined. "The Transformation" is the shortest track, with a night ambience, with some crickets as background while the piano sounds.

That short piece leads to "The Rabbit Kingdom" which has a happier and hopeful feel, and happens to be one of my favorite tracks of the album. Here I like how the music and the voice contrasts, while the first are creating a heavy or dark mood, the second puts a truly mellow atmosphere. This song is also the closest one to symphonic prog (or symph metal, whatever you want to call it). "Stay" has acoustic guitars at first, and then a rockier and cooler sound which had not been shown earlier in the album. Then the music notably slows down and that mellow voice appears again. And the structure is repeated.

"Sounds of Wonder" is another of my favorite tracks due to its different sound, far from metal and with even some friendly percussion. During the whole track we will listen to a gentle track, which as I said, I like, but I am afraid Vangough's die-hard fans may not love. "A Father's Love" shows what the title suggests and what one can imagine with such name. Piano, mellow music, sentimental sound.

With "Requiem For A Fallen King" the band returns to, let's say their original sound, the one I've been describing in previous tracks; I like the inclusion of keyboards because they put different nuances and sometimes they create the mood, the last part of this song is a good example. "An Empire Shattered" may be the funniest track (with due respect), the vocals and the rhythm are pretty catchy and sounds like music for youngsters. A parenthesis, I also found here a song that grotesquely reminds me of A.C.T.'s Last Epic, surely Vangough are aware of that.

"Alice" is the last of the shorter tracks, and here they use again their mellowest side with piano and vocals. After this song, the album finishes with the epic entitled "The Garden Time Forgot" , whose 14 minutes show a cool blend of melodic, heavy, melancholic, emotional, etc., music. This song is an example of Vangough's compositional skills, and an example of the quality of their members, though I don't dare saying they are the most virtuosos, they truly made a communion with their ideas and put a very good epic track. A highlight, when a flute appears.

After all, I am not really impressed with the album, I enjoy some of the songs but I don't love it at all. I believe this was not my best introduction to Vangough's music, but I wanted to click with it, but after five or so listens, I couldn't. So for me this is a decent albums, good but not essential, three stars.

Enjoy it!

Report this review (#589609)
Posted Friday, December 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars The more I hear of Vangough, the more I am incredibly impressed. These guys just refuse to be pigeonholed into any one genre and if anyone deserves to be called 'progressive' in the truest sense it is this quartet from Oklahoma. Some would liken them to Dream Theater, and while that is true in certain passages, there are times when they can be as gentle as they can bombastic, as simple as they can be complex, always melodic and bringing together a wealth of influences from bands as diverse as Muse, Porcupine Tree and even Coldplay (and the record label even references Pantera ' I don't think they are quite that heavy, but I can understand where they are coming from). This is Clay Withrow's band in that he writes all of the music and lyrics, provides vocals, guitar and keyboards but the rest are far from being bit players. Brandon Lopez has an incredibly deft touch at the back, and provides straightforward rock drumming when required to drive the music along but is more than happy to provide fills and nuances that Nick D'Virgilio or Mike Portnoy would recognize. Fully locked in is bassist Jeren Martin while Corey Mast has a wealth of styles and sounds at his fingertips.

For their third album the band decided to provide a simple set of songs in 4/4 time with lyrics about boy meets girls relationships. Okay, so I lied. To tie in with the prog/metal/acoustic/rock music it would only be right and fitting to have grandiose lyrics. What could be better than a concept album telling the story of a Rabbit Kingdom, by a man who is stepping through the veil of two realities. Through the course of the story he begins to realize his link to this other world and has to come to a difficult decision regarding his role in it. Yep - must be prog after all.

This is a band that sound at home whether it is with acoustic guitars and piano, soaring prog or crunching the riffs. Well produced, and with a story that contains bunnies, surely this will get them even greater attention! Indispensible.

Report this review (#807039)
Posted Saturday, August 18, 2012 | Review Permalink

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